When Catholics in the Southwest ask God or a saint for help, many of them do not merely pray. They also promise or present a gift—a tiny metal object known as a milagro. A milagro, which means "miracle" in Spanish, depicts the object for which a miracle is sought, such as a crippled leg or a new house. Milagros are offered for everything people pray for, and so they can represent almost anything imaginable—arms, lungs, hearts, and eyes; men, women, and children; animals, cars, boats—even lost handbags and imprisoned men.
In Answered Prayers, the Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Tohono O'odham, and Yaquis who practice this tradition share their stories of unwavering faith and divine intervention. Anthropologist and photographer Eileen Oktavec has spent more than two decades documenting this fascinating tradition in the Arizona-Mexico borderlands. Quoting extensive interviews, she explains the beliefs of the people who perform this ancient folk ritual and the many rules guiding this practice. She also describes the many places where milagros are offered—from the elaborate Mexican baroque Mission San Xavier near Tucson, Arizona, to tiny household shrines and hospitals on both sides of the border. Oktavec also explains how milagros are made, where they are bought, and how they are used in jewelry, sculpture, and art.
Born in Sonora in 1868 to a Mexican mother and a German father, Federico Ronstadt was the quintessential borderman. He came to Arizona Territory as a young man to learn a trade and eventually became an American citizen; but with many relatives on both sides of the border, Federico was equally at home in Mexico and in his adopted country.
Writing proudly of his Mexican and American heritages, Ronstadt offers readers an extraordinary portrait of the Arizona-Mexico borderlands during the late nineteenth century. His memoirs provide a richness of detail and insight unmatched by traditional histories, relating such scenarios as the hardships of Yaqui hardrock miners working under primitive conditions, the travails of pearl divers in the Gulf of California, and the insurrection of Francisco Serna in 1875 Sonora. They also depict the simple activities of childhood, with its schooling and musical training, its games and mischief. Ronstadt relates his apprenticeship to a wagon- and carriage-maker in Tucson, recalling labor relations in the shop, the establishment of his own business, and the joys and anguish of his personal life. He tells of how he drew on talents nurtured in childhood to become a musician and bandleader, playing weekly concerts with Club Filarmónica Tucsonense for nine years—musical talents that were eventually passed on to his children, his grandchildren (including Linda), and great-grandchildren.
Through Ronstadt's memories, we are better able to understand the sense of independence and self-reliance found today among many lifelong residents of Sonora and Baja California—people isolated from major supply sources and centers of power—and to appreciate a different view of Tucson's past. Enhanced by 22 historical photos, Borderman is a treasure trove of historical source material that will enlighten all readers interested in borderlands history.
From the earliest days of their empire in the New World, the Spanish sought to gain control of the native peoples and lands of what is now Sonora. While missionaries were successful in pacifying many Indians, the Seris—independent groups of hunter-gatherers who lived on the desert shores and islands of the Gulf of California—steadfastly defied Spanish efforts to subjugate them.
Empire of Sand is a documentary history of Spanish attempts to convert, control, and ultimately annihilate the Seris. These papers of religious, military, and government officials attest to the Seris’ resilience in the face of numerous Spanish attempts to conquer them and remove them from their lands. The documents include early observations of the Seris by Jesuit missionaries, descriptions of the collapse of the Seri mission system in 1748, accounts of the invasion of Tiburón Island in 1750 and the Sonora Expedition of 1767–71, and reports of late eighteenth-century Seri hostilities.
Thomas E. Sheridan’s introduction puts the documents in perspective, while his notes objectively clarify their significance. By skillfully weaving the documents into a coherent narrative of Spanish–Seri interaction, he has produced a compelling account of empire and resistance that speaks to anthropologists, historians, and all readers who take heart in stories of resistance to oppression.
When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, citizens and missionaries in the northwestern reaches of the new nation were without the protection of Spanish military forces for the first time. Beset by hostile Apaches and the uncertainties of life in a desert wilderness, these early Mexican families forged a way of life that continues into the present day. This era in the history of southern Arizona and northern Sonora is now recalled in a series of historical documents that offer eyewitness accounts of daily life in the missions and towns of the region.
These documents give a sense of immediacy to the military operations, Indian activities, and missionary work going on in Tucson and the surrounding areas. They also demonstrate that Hispanic families maintained continuity in military and political control on the frontier, and clearly show that the frontier was not beset by anarchy in spite of the change in national government. In the forty chapters of translated documents in this collection, the voices of those who lived in what is now the Arizona-Sonora border region provide firsthand accounts of the people and events that shaped their era. These documents record such events as the arrival of the first Americans, the reconstruction of Tucson’s presidio wall, and conflict between Tohono O’odham villagers and Mexicans. All are set against the backdrop of an unrelenting Apache offensive that heightened after the departure of the Spanish military but that was held in check by civilian militias. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction in which historian Kieran McCarty provides background on the documents’ context and authorship. Taken together, they offer a fascinating look at this little-known period and provide a unique panorama of southwestern history.
For millennia friendships have framed the most intimate and public contours of our everyday lives. In this book, Ignacio Martínez tells the multilayered story of how the ideals, logic, rhetoric, and emotions of friendship helped structure an early yet remarkably nuanced, fragile, and sporadic form of civil society (societas civilis) at the furthest edges of the Spanish Empire.
Spaniards living in the isolated borderlands region of colonial Sonora were keen to develop an ideologically relevant and socially acceptable form of friendship with Indigenous people that could act as a functional substitute for civil law and governance, thereby regulating Native behavior. But as frontier society grew in complexity and sophistication, Indigenous and mixed-raced people also used the language of friendship and the performance of emotion for their respective purposes, in the process becoming skilled negotiators to meet their own best interests.
In northern New Spain, friendships were sincere and authentic when they had to be and cunningly malleable when the circumstances demanded it. The tenuous origins of civil society thus developed within this highly contentious social laboratory in which friendships (authentic and feigned) set the social and ideological parameters for conflict and cooperation. Far from the coffee houses of Restoration London or the lecture halls of the Republic of Letters, the civil society illuminated by Martínez stumbled forward amid the ambiguities and contradictions of colonialism and the obstacles posed by the isolation and violence of the Sonoran Desert.
Landscapes of Power and Identity is a groundbreaking comparative history of two colonies on the frontiers of the Spanish empire—the Sonora region of northwestern Mexico and the Chiquitos region of eastern Bolivia’s lowlands—from the late colonial period through the middle of the nineteenth century. An innovative combination of environmental and cultural history, this book reflects Cynthia Radding’s more than two decades of research on Mexico and Bolivia and her consideration of the relationships between human societies and the geographic landscapes they inhabit and create. At first glance, Sonora and Chiquitos are quite different: one a scrub-covered desert, the other a tropical rainforest of the greater Amazonian and Paraguayan river basins. Yet the regions are similar in many ways. Both were located far from the centers of colonial authority, organized into Jesuit missions and linked to the principal mining centers of New Spain and the Andes, and then absorbed into nation-states in the nineteenth century. In each area, the indigenous communities encountered European governors, missionaries, slave hunters, merchants, miners, and ranchers.
Radding’s comparative approach illuminates what happened when similar institutions of imperial governance, commerce, and religion were planted in different physical and cultural environments. She draws on archival documents, published reports by missionaries and travelers, and previous histories as well as ecological studies and ethnographies. She also considers cultural artifacts, including archaeological remains, architecture, liturgical music, and religious dances. Radding demonstrates how colonial encounters were conditioned by both the local landscape and cultural expectations; how the colonizers and colonized understood notions of territory and property; how religion formed the cultural practices and historical memories of the Sonoran and Chiquitano peoples; and how the conflict between the indigenous communities and the surrounding creole societies developed in new directions well into the nineteenth century.
In 1927, near the town of Folsom, New Mexico, a spectacular discovery altered our understanding of early humans on the American continent. Scientists excavating a bison from the late Pleistocene age discovered a fluted projectile point wedged between the animal’s ribs—forceful evidence that humans existed during the Ice Age together with now-extinct animals. Subsequent discoveries at nearby Clovis introduced scientists to the first large-scale occupation of the Americas—Clovis culture—with a time span of 13,250 to 12,500 years ago.
Los Primeros Mexicanos explores the Clovis occupation of Mexico’s northwest region of Sonora. Using extensive primary data concerning specific artifacts, assemblages, and Paleoindian archaeology, Mexican archaeologist Guadalupe Sánchez presents a synopsis and critical review of current data and a unique summary of information about the First People of México that is difficult to find in Spanish and until now not available in English.
Sánchez’s essential framework for early Sonora prehistory includes the Sonoran landscape, the biotic communities, a history of investigations, the regional cultural-historical chronology of Sonora, and the Clovis record in the surrounding area. The Sonoran settlement pattern, she asserts, indicates that Clovis groups were hunter-gatherers who exploited a wide range of environments, locating their settlements near lithic sources for tool-making, water sources, large-prey animals, and a variety of edible plants and small animals.
In 1592, a Jesuit priest, José de Acosta, chronicled his puzzlement over when man first arrived in the New World. Four hundred years later, the peopling of the American continent is still intensely interesting to scientists and researchers. Los Primeros Mexicanos offers an exhaustive synthesis of available archaeological evidence to shed light on Clovis occupation in Sonora, Mexico.
In 1600 they were the largest, most technologically advanced indigenous group in northwest Mexico, but today, though their descendants presumably live on in Sonora, almost no one claims descent from the Ópatas. The Ópatas seem to have “disappeared” as an ethnic group, their languages forgotten except for the names of the towns, plants, and geography of the Opatería, where they lived. Why did the Ópatas disappear from the historical record while their neighbors survived?
David Yetman, a leading ethnobotanist who has traveled extensively in Sonora, consulted more than two hundred archival sources to answer this question. The result is an accessible ethnohistory of the Ópatas, one that embraces historical complexity with an eye toward Opatan strategies of resistance and assimilation. Yetman’s account takes us through the Opatans’ initial encounters with the conquistadors, their resettlement in Jesuit missions, clashes with Apaches, their recruitment as miners, and several failed rebellions, and ultimately arrives at an explanation for their “disappearance.”
Yetman’s account is bolstered by conversations with present-day residents of the Opatería and includes a valuable appendix on the languages of the Opatería by linguistic anthropologist David Shaul. One of the few studies devoted exclusively to this indigenous group, The Ópatas: In Search of a Sonoran People marks a significant contribution to the literature on the history of the greater Southwest.
Capitalism, the economic system of Western Europe and the United States at the turn of the century, had a major impact on every country of the Third World. In the Western Hemisphere, no country escaped its influence, particularly the North American version, increasingly omnipotent. Mexico, next door to the powerful colossus, often felt the brunt of that impact. The People of Sonora and Yankee Capitalists examines how the advent of North American dollars between 1882 and 1910 helped reshape the economic, social, and political contours of a Mexican province on the border of Arizona. The activity of Yankee promoters, particularly miners, land speculators, and cattle barons, altered dramatically the colonial structure left behind by its former Spanish masters. Even the psychology of the inhabitants of Sonora underwent a kind of metamorphosis. This book, in short, explains what happened to Mexico’s traditional society when Yankee capitalists made their appearance.
Young men ride horses on a dusty main road through town. Cars and gas stations gradually intrude on the land, and, years later, curiosity shops and cantinas change the face of Mexican border towns south of Arizona. Between 1900 and the late 1950s, Mexican border towns came of age both as centers of commerce and as tourist destinations. Postcards from the Sonora Border reveals how images—in this case the iconic postcard—shape the way we experience and think about place.
Making use of his personal collection of historic images, Daniel D. Arreola captures the evolution of Sonoran border towns, creating a sense of visual “time travel” for the reader. Supported by maps and visual imagery, the author shares the geographical and historical story of five unique border towns—Agua Prieta, Naco, Nogales, Sonoyta, and San Luis Río Colorado.
Postcards from the Sonora Border introduces us to these important towns and provides individual stories about each, using the postcards as markers. No one postcard view tells the complete story—rather, the sense of place emerges image by image as the author pulls readers through the collection as an assembled view. Arreola reveals how often the same locations and landmarks of a town were photographed as postcard images generation after generation, giving a long and dynamic view of the inhabitants through time. Arranged chronologically, Arreola’s postcards allow us to discover the changing perceptions of place in the borderlands of Sonora, Mexico.
In 1854, funded by a syndicate of San Francisco businessmen, Charles D. Poston and a party of twenty-five men launched an expedition from San Francisco to Sinaloa and Sonora, Mexico, before trekking north into Arizona and returning to California. Reconnaissance in Sonora brings to light Poston’s handwritten report to the syndicate about the journey, published here for the first time.
Poston led his party through Sonora and the territory of the 1854 Gadsden Purchase, which today encompasses southern Arizona and a portion of southern New Mexico. The syndicate’s charge to the young adventurer was to acquire land in Mexico in anticipation of the Gadsden Purchase and the building of the transcontinental railroad. Reconnaissance in Sonora details Poston’s expedition, including the founding of the town of Colorado City at the site of present-day Yuma, Arizona.
C. Gilbert Storms explores the American ideas of territorial expansion and Manifest Destiny, the national debate over a route for a transcontinental railroad, the legends of rich gold and silver mines in northern Mexico, and the French and American filibusters that plagued northern Mexico in the early 1850s.
Just as the Rudo Ensayo is more an historic document than a mere history, so this new translation of it is more a documented interpretation than simply a new translation. The translator/editors bring their expert knowledge of the area, the language, and the history to every page of Nentvig's manuscript. Pradeau and Rasmussen have clarified many of the ambiguities of earlier translations by Smith (1863) and Guiteras (1894), and have added substantial annotations to the author's accounts of fauna and flora, native culture, and Spanish outposts. An incomparable record of a twelve-year mission in 18th century Sonora, the Rudo Ensayo as rendered in modern English is also a fascinating travelogue through an untamed land.
The Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona is a peer-reviewed monograph series sponsored by the School of Anthropology. Established in 1959, the series publishes archaeological and ethnographic papers that use contemporary method and theory to investigate problems of anthropological importance in the southwestern United States, Mexico, and related areas.
Motivated by a love of her Mexican American heritage, Patricia Preciado Martin set out to document the lives and memories of the women of her mother's and grandmother's eras; for while the role of women in Southwest has begun to be chronicled, that of Hispanic women largely remains obscure. In Songs My Mother Sang to Me, she has preserved the oral histories of many of these women before they have been lost or forgotten.
Martin's quest took her to ranches, mining towns, and cities throughout southern Arizona, for she sought to document as varied an experience of the contributions of Mexican American women as possible. The interviews covered family history and genealogy, childhood memories, secular and religious traditions, education, work and leisure, environment and living conditions, rites of passage, and personal values. Each of the ten oral histories reflects not only the spontaneity of the interview and personality of each individual, but also the friendship that grew between Martin and her subjects.
Songs My Mother Sang to Me collects voices not often heard and brings to print accounts of social change never previously recorded. These women document more than the details of their own lives; in relating the histories of their ancestors and communities, they add to our knowledge of the culture and contributions of Mexican American people in the Southwest.
Sonora: A Description of the Province
Ignaz Pfefferkorn; Foreword by Bernard L. Fontana; Translated and Annotated by Theodore E. Treutlein University of Arizona Press, 1989 Library of Congress F1346.P3513 1989 | Dewey Decimal 972.17
"The bloodsucking bat, construction of bows and arrows, the punishment for adultery among the Apaches... all was grist that dropped into the industrious mill of Father Pfefferkorn's eyes, ears, and brain."—Saturday Review
"To be read for enjoyment; nevertheless, the historian will find in it a wealth of information that has been shrewdly appraised, carefully sifted, and creditably related."—Catholic Historical Review
"Of interest not only to the historian but to the geographer and anthropologist."—Pacific Historical Review
Standing on Common Ground
Geraldo L. Cadava Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress F815.C34 2013 | Dewey Decimal 972.1
Standing on Common Ground locates the roots of today's debates over border enforcement in the Sunbelt's pan-ethnic and transnational history, as cross-border ties in the 1940s among entrepreneurs and politicians, and a flourishing cultural traffic among tourists and students, gave way to economic instability and illegal labor migration.
Archaeology in the Southwest is increasingly directing its attention south of the international border as it becomes clear that a picture of the pre-hispanic Southwest is incomplete without taking the Mexican Northwest into account.
Surveying the Archaeology of Northwest Mexico presents an overview of recent work in Sonora and Chihuahua, comprising a sort of professional tour of the area. The chapters offer fresh insights into the formation of centers such as Paquimé, Cerro de Trincheras, and the Rio Sonora cabaceras. Contributors explore relations between these centers, individual internal organization of the various identifiable polities, and the relation of the whole northwest Mexican region to better-known adjacent ones. The volume underscores that northwest Mexico was not a dependent hinterland but was inhabited by many independent groups throughout prehistory.
Wandering Peoples is a chronicle of cultural resiliency, colonial relations, and trespassed frontiers in the borderlands of a changing Spanish empire. Focusing on the native subjects of Sonora in Northwestern Mexico, Cynthia Radding explores the social process of peasant class formation and the cultural persistence of Indian communities during the long transitional period between Spanish colonialism and Mexican national rule. Throughout this anthropological history, Radding presents multilayered meanings of culture, community, and ecology, and discusses both the colonial policies to which peasant communities were subjected and the responses they developed to adapt and resist them. Radding describes this colonial mission not merely as an instance of Iberian expansion but as a site of cultural and political confrontation. This alternative vision of colonialism emphasizes the economic links between mission communities and Spanish mercantilist policies, the biological consequences of the Spanish policy of forced congregación, and the cultural and ecological displacements set in motion by the practices of discipline and surveillance established by the religious orders. Addressing wider issues pertaining to ethnic identities and to ecological and cultural borders, Radding’s analysis also underscores the parallel production of colonial and subaltern texts during the course of a 150-year struggle for power and survival.
In this illuminating book, anthropologist Kirstin Erickson explains how members of the Yaqui tribe, an indigenous group in northern Mexico, construct, negotiate, and continually reimagine their ethnic identity. She examines two interconnected dimensions of the Yaqui ethnic imagination: the simultaneous processes of place making and identification, and the inseparability of ethnicity from female-identified spaces, roles, and practices.
Yaquis live in a portion of their ancestral homeland in Sonora, about 250 miles south of the Arizona border. A long history of displacement and ethnic struggle continues to shape the Yaqui sense of self, as Erickson discovered during the sixteen months that she lived in Potam, one of the eight historic Yaqui pueblos. She found that themes of identity frequently arise in the stories that Yaquis tell and that geography and location—space and place—figure prominently in their narratives.
Revisiting Edward Spicer’s groundbreaking anthropological study of the Yaquis of Potam pueblo undertaken more than sixty years ago, Erickson pays particular attention to the “cultural work” performed by Yaqui women today. She shows that by reaffirming their gendered identities and creating and occupying female-gendered spaces such as kitchens, household altars, and domestic ceremonial spaces, women constitute Yaqui ethnicity in ways that are as significant as actions taken by males in tribal leadership and public ceremony.
This absorbing study contributes new empirical knowledge about a Native American community as it adds to the growing anthropology of space/place and gender. By inviting readers into the homes and patios where Yaqui women discuss their lives, it offers a highly personalized account of how they construct—and reconstruct—their identity.